Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Metaphors and Similes

Animal metaphors and similes

Rowling uses animal metaphors and similes throughout the book to make the qualities of her characters vivid. Uncle Vernon's large size and pugnaciousness are made clear when he is described as a rhinoceros (p. 3). The Dursleys' disgust and suspicion towards Harry lead them to treat him as if he's "a dog that had rolled in something smelly" (p. 5). When Harry meets Dobby for the first time, the elf's large ears take on a slightly dark, Gothic quality with the descriptor "bat-like" (p. 12). Fred and George's ability to climb through Harry's window stealthily to rescue him is "catlike" (P. 26). As Mrs. Weaseley becomes powerful in her anger, she "swelled like a bullfrog" (p. 39). In a moment of foreshadowing of what is to come with the basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets at Hogwarts, Harry and Ron see “The Hogwarts Express [...] streaking along below them like a scarlet snake” (p. 71). The tininess of the Muggle world seen from their great height in the flying car is imagined as "a great city alive with cars like multicolored ants" (p. 72). But then as their fortunes change and they run into the Whomping Willow, it hits them with "the force of a charging bull" (p. 75). When Snape and McGonagall seek to punish them, Snape shoots "a look of pure venom at Harry and Ron," true to his affiliation with the snake-themed Slytherin House, while McGonagall is "eyeing them like a wrathful eagle" (p. 82). Professor Binns’ slow, elderly and possibly wise nature is emphasized when he "paused again, pursing his lips, looking like a wrinkled old tortoise” (p. 150). The magical animation of Wood’s quidditch diagram is illustrated by this simile: “Wood was holding up a large diagram of a quidditch field, on which were drawn many lines, arrows, and crosses in different colored inks. He took out his wand, tapped the board, and the arrows began to wiggle over the diagram like caterpillars” (p. 108). Sometimes, Rowling actually states which qualities she is trying to emphasize through the adjectives she uses right before comparing a person to an animal, for example, with "Madam Pince, the librarian, was a thin, irritable woman who looked like an underfed vulture" (p. 163) and with “Snape, gliding over like a large and malevolent bat" (p. 194). Finally, this simile in Ginny Weasley’s valentine for Harry Potter refers to color, but adds a whimsical witchy twist: "His eyes are as green as a fresh pickled toad” (p. 238).

Plant similes

Moments of magic in the book are often described with images from everyday life, to make them possible to visualize. For example, Rowling uses plant similes to describe several scenes: Garden gnomes are as "small and leathery looking, with a large, knobby, bald head exactly like a potato" (p. 37). When Malfoy is spattered with swelling solution, his head droops "with the weight of a nose like a small melon” (p. 187). And Professor Sprout's understatement is described, appropriately, with a botanical metaphor: "'As our Mandrakes are only seedlings, their cries won’t kill yet,' she said calmly as though she’d just done nothing more exciting than water a begonia" (p. 93).

Self-referential similes

The book uses several metaphors that are self-referential, referring to other images in the book to create a unified coherent world. As Harry becomes concerned about Mr. Weasley getting into trouble for bewitching the car, he feels "as though he’d just been walloped in the stomach by one of the mad tree’s larger branches" (p. 79). When Percy fights with his brother, “he strode off, the back of his neck as red as Ron’s ears” (p. 158). Ginny Weasley, on the verge of telling Harry and Ron about the Chamber of Secrets "was rocking backward and forward slightly in her chair, exactly like Dobby did when he was teetering on the edge of revealing forbidden information" (p. 285). And when Ron gets embarrassed he becomes "as brightly pink as Lockhart’s valentine flowers" (P. 331).

Celestial metaphors and similes

The Chamber of Secrets makes use of celestial metaphors and similes to describe light. For instance, Dobby the house-elf’s eyes are frequently referred to as orbs, which are spherical celestial bodies: “Harry Potter is humble and modest,” said Dobby reverently, his orb-like eyes aglow” (p. 15). Ginny Weasley’s warm, red embarrassed face is imagined as a sunset: “she dived under the table to retrieve the bowl and emerged with her face glowing like the setting sun.” And Harry sees Dumbledore’s glowing glasses as moons: "Harry’s eyes wandered past him to where Professor Dumbledore, the headmaster, sat watching the Sorting from the staff table, his long silver beard and half-moon glasses shining brightly in the candlelight" (p. 77).

Military metaphors and similes

The book uses figurative language derived from warfare to create tension and illustrate conflict. For example comparing Harry to a bomb from Vernon’s perspective conveys his fear: “Ever since Harry had come home for the summer holidays, Uncle Vernon had been treating him like a bomb that might go off at any moment, because Harry Potter wasn’t a normal boy” (p. 3). Many different items are compared to swords, which contributes to establishing a swashbuckling adventure genre: “Mrs. Weasley had appeared, holding a long poker like a sword" (p. 38). This is especially true in the section about the Dueling Club: “Then they raised their wands like swords in front of them” (p. 190). As the tension inside of Hogwarts increases, the feeling of threat is enhanced by this military metaphor: "Raindrops the size of bullets thundered on the castle windows for days on end..." (p. 122). The conflict between Gryffindor and Slytherin house on the Quidditch field is heightened by similes such as this: “They reported that the Slytherin team was no more than seven greenish blurs, shooting through the air like missiles" (p. 123). And in the final confrontation between Tom Riddle and Harry Potter, the life-or-death nature of the conflict is conveyed with a simile of a gunshot: "Riddle was pointing Harry’s wand at Fawkes; there was a bang like a gun, and Fawkes took flight again in a whirl of gold and scarlet” (p .322).